Walter Forbes

Kitty, our new baby Kate, and I moved back to Chattanooga in 1965 and I went to work in the family business. I had worked Sumer jobs in various textile mills and at our company, Signal Thread so I knew the basics of the industry. In addition to the thread company my dad and I represented Martha Mills, a yarn mill in Thomaston, Georgia that belonged to B F Goodrich. My duties were as a territorial salesman, other dales calls as directed (Usually for yarn accounts), and as a co-host and hunting guide at our farm in Macon County Georgia on weekends. We entertained our customers by quail hunting and fishing. (I got to be a pretty good shooting coach!). My music was an important part of my “Sales Persona”. On a number of occasions I played for our ultimate thread customers, the ladies who sewed in a garment plant. The travel was constant but Kitty did a masterful job of raising our three children. Whenever I got home I was always greeted with enthusiastic love by my family. In 1968 I moved out of my territory and into the Chattanooga office. Our thread was mostly made of cotton multi-plied yarn topped with a heat resistant finish. By 1970 we were selling spun polyester threads which were being spun in the same cotton systems. During the recession of 1974 I had an epiphany: Why chop extruded polyester into cotton staple lengths, why not use the continuous filament and finish it as sewing thread? We worked with Tennessee Eastman to develop a suitable textured stabilized yarn. At some point it occurred to me that if the whitening agent, titanium dioxide, was left out of our new thread it would be simi-clear, i.e. translucent. It worked! We were able to satisfy most color shades needed with 18 basic “Clear-Tex” colors. A normal color line for the same application would require about 120 different colors! That was really fun! We grew the company from four to twenty million dollars in sales in a matter of three years. As you might imagine this rapid growth required an even more extensive travel schedule. After I got my third speeding ticket in one year I decided to learn to fly to make calls in our vastly expanded sales territories. To learn to fly was a good decision, to become involved in the General Aviation business was a very poor decision! It took me a number of years to find an exit from my ill advised investment in Signal Aviation. In the late 1980s the garment industry began to follow cheaper labor to the Caribbean and to Mexico. By 1994 the exodus had become a rout! Signal Thread went from some 8,000 ship to locations to 1,200 in just three years! The stress was a contributing factor in my heart attack which hit me in 1995. I closed the company down in 1997. Kitty and I retired to the Farm for seven years. Those were good years but I soon discovered that without an outside income to cushion the bad years farming was not what I thought it should be. I sold most of our properties and kept just about 100 acres of the old home place, We moved back to Chattanooga and took up a life at a much slower pace. Kitty got her MFA in poetry and is now a published poet. I manage to stay busy with various projects and with my music. Life is good! .